QUESTION What is the correct plural of numbers when written in figure form?
I assume it's "100s", "3s", etc. However, many people seem to add an apostrophe: "100's", "3's". I can't understand why this should be the case.
Can you help?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE London, England Wed, Jul 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't know if there's a difference between how this is done in the U.S. and how it's done in England. On this side of the Atlantic, anyway, we wouldn't add the apostrophe to form the plural of numbers.
Authority: New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage HarperCollins: New York. 1994. Cited with permission. p. 275.
QUESTION A question came up the other day on another English forum that bothered me. (I am a native speaker of American English.) The question was which verb form to use in:"Before there [was, were] you, there was nobody."In the first clause, "you" must be the subject, so "were" must be correct; but it just doesn't "sound" right. It isn't possible that there is some way to justify "was," is it? Does "were" flow smoothly off your tongue? Is there some reason that it doesn't? I would appreciate your analysis.
(My suggestion was to rephrase the clause as "Before you came along, ...")
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Williamsburg, Virginia Wed, Jul 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think this is one situation where the expletive construction "there _____" lets us down. If we turned the structure around, we wouldn't have the problem: "Before you were there, nobody was there," but the meaning also changes slightly. What happens is that the "there" tries to take over as the "existential subject" and the "were" sounds peculiar. On the other hand, if the subject is clearly plural, we don't have the problem with something sounding odd: "Before there were hot dogs, there was very little worth eating."
QUESTION The following sentence appeared in a front-page article in the July 1, 2000 Week in Review section of The New York Times:"Instead, what animates the justices are questions of the court's own institutional turf in general and the allocation of governmental power in general...."Shouldn't the two verbs be in number agreement? As I see it, an argument can be made for making both either singular (construing "questions...." as some sort of collective form) or plural (construing "what" as plural). SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Moorestown, New Jersey Wed, Jul 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The subject of the sentence verb, in this case, is a noun clause, "what animates the justices." (The subject for the dependent clause verb, "animates," is, indeed, the pronoun "what.") When a noun clause acts as a subject, it is singular "What you see is what you get." The Times writer apparently felt that the number of the verb could be determined the plural predicate, which is seldom the case. (It is the case with expletive constructions such as "There are questions. . . ," but that's not the case here.) Because a singular verb, "is," would, indeed, sound odd here (because of the plural predicate), the writer would have been wise to avoid the noun clause construction: "Justices are animated by questions of. . . ." or "Questions of institutional turf and the allocation of governmental power in general have animated the justices. . . ."
I will embed an e-mail icon here in case others can explain the situation more clearly or have a difference of opinion.
QUESTION What is the proper verb usage in the following phrase ...
- "A flood of investors is leaving the market."
- "A flood of investors are leaving the market."
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New York, New York Wed, Jul 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Frankly, I find it kind of hard to picture a flood doing any such thing, which is probably the problem here. Are we picturing a singular entity? The opposite of a mighty influx (whatever that would be, an exflux, an exodus?)? Or are they nonetheless acting as individuals, in which case we'd want the plural. If you really must stick with this unruly flood, I'd treat it nonetheless as a group of individuals and use the plural verb. Better yet, though, be more specific and avoid flooding.
QUESTION When writing an article (magazine/newspaper) is it right/wrong to use the title as if it were part of the body of the article. For example:Title: "Don't leave the house without your umbrella!"Article begins:
Those were the last words I heard as I slammed the door behind me on my way to what was a very memorable and wet day.
(I know that's cheesey soundingI just needed a quick example.)
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Clemente, California Wed, Jul 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It's done all the time in poetry, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it in newspaper or magazine writing. For one thing, you're rarely in strict control of the title of a piece, and its placement, size, etc. can be misleading. You're apt to lose some readers before they get beyond the first sentence.
QUESTION My problem is that my employer, an attorney, insists that it is OK to use such words as returnable (in common use in the courts, as in: "the Motion is returnable on the 10th of August." The latest word is "includeable." He wanted the correct spelling. I said maybe he should consider: "is included" or "can be included." It gets worse. He has "answerable" "doable" and others. However, readable and some "ables" do work. What's the rule on this? Thanks for your attention. Keep that grammar website going, I'm learning a lot from it. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Wed, Jul 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Unfortunately, for those of us who think this kind of thing is overdone, there doesn't seem to be a rule about creating -ables and -ibles. Some careful writers would insist that -able or -ible be added only to English or French roots that can have a corresponding Latin or French suffix (-abilis or -able). Burchfield, though, says that the two suffixes are regarded as a "living element" that can be added to English or French roots (nouns or verbs) whether or not there can be a corresponding Latin suffix. There are, furthermore, nearly equivalent words made of similar roots: destroyable and destructible, for instance, or eatable and edible. The language seems to crank these things out at a ferocious rate, and Burchfield lists an entire page, in very small print. Burchfield doesn't say anything negative about their proliferation. All you can do, I guess, is change "answerable" to "can be answered" when your boss isn't looking.
Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press. (under -able).
QUESTION Which would be correct in the following sentence... cover or covers? I would think "covers" since we're talking about "our goal." Thanks as always for your help.
Our goal is to partner with leading vendors, which collectively cover a huge portion of our market.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boca Raton, Florida Thu, Jul 27, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You're going to have a hard time convincing anyone that the "which" of that sentence (the subject of your dependent clause) refers to anything other than "vendors," the word it immediately follows. And since "vendors" is, of course, plural, you need a plural verb, "cover." Can you eliminate the "which clause" somehow: "to establish partnerships with the leading vendors of our market area"?
QUESTION Is this sentence grammatically correct? Specifically the use of the word renowned.Renowned for its quick learning curve, Sibelius users range from elementary students to publishers.Thank you, SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Walnut Creek, California Thu, Jul 27, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE There's nothing wrong with renowned, in itself, but it's trying to modify Sibelius users, not Sibelius itself, which probably isn't what you mean. I think you need to say something like "Renowned for its quick learning curve, Sibelius is used by . . . "
QUESTION What is wrong with this sentence?"He should have some visibility to that job."Which is intended to mean that he should have some cognizance over that job. I think it has something to do with using a prepositional phrase to modify a noun, but I'm not sure. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Seattle, Washington Thu, Jul 27, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I'm afraid, first of all, that I don't know what "visibility to that job" means, and then I don't know what "cognizance over a job" means. The only definition for "cognizance" that makes sense would be "responsibility for," but that's a rare meaning for that word. When a job has "visibility" that means that people are aware of it. A college president could have high visibility or a Secretary of State, say. He might enjoy some visibility in that job (people would recognize him on the street?), and that's perhaps what you mean?
QUESTION "No love lost." This particular idiom has me confounded.
Is this some kind of an oxymoron or what? I know it means there is no affection/there is animosity. However, don't you think, if we consider it literally, "no love LOST" would tend to mean there still IS love? How did it turn out to mean the opposite?
Thanks a lot if you would clear it up for me.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bangalore, Karnataka, India Thu, Jul 27, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It is a rather peculiar idiom, isn't it? I think what it means is that there never was any love between these two individuals, that their animosity goes so far back and is so engrained that there is seemingly no love/affection/respect to be lost in the first place. Sometimes you'll hear people say "I could care less," when they clearly mean the opposite yet most folks understand what they mean. What is widely understood to be the meaning of an idiomatic expression is sometimes (often?) not immediately evident to someone not familiar with the language.
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